Interviews | Back to Issue 8

May 18, 1998 was the first time I ever had the opportunity to see über-punk band Bad Religion in concert. Having been a fan for a long time, it was an even bigger thrill to be able to interview an original member of the band, bassist Jay Bentley, before the show. He’s the tall one with long hair and a very nice guy. So here’s myself, Brendan, and special NIMBY correspondent Rob (who were both able to come down from Syracuse) and our questions for Jay. -John

NIMBY: The first question that we gotta know: who’s the chick on the cover of the new album?
JB: I don’t know. Everybody thinks she’s the girl from Third Rock From the Sun. That’s what everybody keeps saying and I’m just going, “Yeah, that’s her. She’s a big fan of the band.” Not true, but it’s a good lie.
NIMBY: Of course, you’re all from LA.
JB: Originally, so we can say that. We can say that we know everybody and we’re hobnobbing with the stars and they’re doing our albums. But it’s not and I don’t know who it is. She was invented by Steve Raskin who is an artist from Washington DC- one of Brian’s friends. We said, “Steve, go crazy. This is the idea of the album and it’s just all shit and come up with something that’s visually shit.”
NIMBY: She’s not bad though.
JB: No, no, no. Nothing personal against her, but it’s the imagery of what she is and what she’s doing that ties in with the…braindeath of those who would choose to do that.
NIMBY: What do you think about doing the Warped Tour this summer? Do you think you’ll enjoy it?
JB: (audible belch) Sure.
NIMBY: Do you think the half-hour sets will be constricting?
JB: No. I talked with Kevin and I said we might go into forty minutes and he said I don’t care. If they say we’ve gotta be off the parking lot by 10:30, as long as you guys are done, I don’t care. So, I’m not worried not worried about set times. The idea was just to be playing something other than what we’ve been doing the past four years, which is doing our own headlining shows and going out on the road. That’s fun, but I was bored, I really was. I told the guys when we were doing the record, “I’m so fucking bored or doing this.” It’s just, “Here we go on fucking tour again, we’re gonna work here, we’re gonna play there.” It’s like, that’s fun, but I want to do something different. And I don’t wanna go open for…someone I don’t wanna open for. And the only band we’ve ever opened for on tour is Pearl Jam. So, there’s not really that many bands I could say, “Yeah, I wanna open for you guys.”
NIMBY: Do you still feel a connection to a lot of these smaller punk bands now that you, well, you are really a big band now?
JB: Yeah, because I don’t think of us that way. I still think of us as a band from the garage that just has accomplished a lot in 18 years. So, when I talk with younger bands, maybe I am kind of talking in that “Yeah, these are the mistakes we’ve made” tone of voice. But not in a way of saying you don’t know what you’re doing, you fucking idiot. We’ve made so many mistakes that if there’s anything I can do to help somebody along is great for everybody. You try to help people with, “Don’t do this” or “Don’t work with him”- just small things. Because that’s what makes or breaks a band is usually a bunch of small things that add up to a band saying fuck it, we’re breaking up. It’s usually not one major item. If it is, it’s just destined to happen. But it’s usually a lot of little tiny bullshit that makes everybody flustered, so maybe I can help them out of that.
NIMBY: Do you ever feel like you’re responsible for inspiring a whole new wave of punk bands?
JB: I honestly don’t think like that. I don’t feel like that. I still have my idols and my people that got me to want to do this. Last night we played up in Philadelphia and I didn’t ever think about it, but I’m standing there talking with Paul and we’re outside at the Ryder truck just shooting the shit, and these two guys just come around the corner and just stop in their tracks and they’re just staring at me, and I’m like, “What?” And those are the times when you go like, I understand how you feel. My name’s Jay, hi. I’m like that. I get around people I look up to and I don’t know what to say. As far as musically, what we do is something that just we do. Other people do it, but what we do is…Bad Religion. That’s what it will always be. So when people say we’re influencing, we’re Bad Religion. We do something that we know how to do really well, and if other people mimic the style, that’s ok, cuz that’s a compliment.
NIMBY: So who were some of your influences?
JB: Like the Clash. Early Clash. And the Jam, Elvis Costello, and then all the LA bands. The Circle Jerks and Black Flag, and really the Adolescents were huge for me. If there was a band that you can say where did Bad Religion really sprout out of, it’s the idea that we could go watch the Adolescents and they were doing three part harmonies on stage, and we said we could do that. So that’s really the nucleus of the whole thing. And we were great friends. Every show they’d play, they’d set up their stuff on stage and go, “Hey, we’re the Adolescents and we’re not gonna play right now. Here’s some friends of ours, Bad Religion.” So we’d play five songs and then leave and everybody’d go, “What the hell was that?” And we’d do the same with them, so it was always a real learning experience with them, because they were amazingly talented. We were all the same age and they were so much better than us. It was just, no, you guys are that band. That band of good bands that has to break up or fuck up somewhere along the line. We were just shitty and didn’t care. We just gradually progressed into getting shittier and caring even less.
NIMBY: Do you guys consciously theme your albums?
JB: No. It’s something that as the albums come together, we can start stringing along concepts, and that’s usually where an album title will come from. And the artwork and everything else. The last two albums’ artwork has been pretty crappy. It’s true. It’s just due to…where everybody has an idea and before everyone’s idea would amalgamate into one great idea, and now everybody just plants their feet in cement and says this is my idea and I’m not changing it. Ok, fine. So we end up with a black-and-white album cover or the band or people we’ve never met before.
NIMBY: What is the “biggest killer in American history”?
JB: You need to listen to the album. Says his name right in the album.
NIMBY: You mean Edward Teller? Tell us about Edward Teller.
JB: Edward Teller is still alive and was really the only renowned scientist to stay on the Manhattan Project when everyone else said “This is wrong.” He was the only one to stay on, and he was the only one to advocate its use as a scientist. And so being that only scientist, the government would always turn to him for scientific evidence that it was ok to be doing this bad shit. Like it’s ok to do this, as the scientist will explain here, and he’d go on saying whatever scientific theory he had for the goodness of the H-bomb. Whatever devious plot that the States had to do on some poor, unrelenting country, they’d turn to Edward Teller and say, “He says it’s ok”. He’s a renowned scientist, a Stanford professor, and he was always just basically signing the papers. So if there’s one person in all of American history who has killed way more people than anyone could possibly imagine, it is he.
NIMBY: We don’t want to take up too much of your time, so any last thoughts?
JB: The keys are jingling (Brian Baker jingles his carkeys). Stop fucking with people, that’s my thought.

John (to Brian Baker): How’s it going? I don’t know if you remember me, but I interviewed you about a year ago.
Brian: John, right? You look a lot tougher than I remember.

Just had to include that.